The five-domains update

Sea state 

Three Russian nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines emerged within 300 metres of each other through polar ice and snow during major Arctic exercise Umka-2021 (see video). One fired a torpedo under the ice, while Russian aircraft and ground troops conducted simultaneous drills. These close-range manoeuvres, by two Delta IV-class and one Borei-class submarines, were a first for Russia’s navy and a bold statement of Russia’s territorial interests and capabilities in the region.

India is stepping up its maritime cooperation in joint naval exercises, particularly with Quad nations. Acting on the recent pledge to strengthen the two countries’ military engagement, India concluded a two-day naval exercise with the US, including some air force participation, in the eastern Indian Ocean on Monday. Next month, India will join the French-led La Perouse naval exercises for the first time in the Bay of Bengal, alongside Quad and Malabar exercise counterparts Australia, the US and Japan. Future India–Australia–France and India–Australia–Indonesia exercises are under discussion.

Flight path

Today the Royal Australian Air Force celebrates a century since its establishment in 1921. In Canberra, the RAAF celebrated with an impressive flypast over Lake Burley Griffin involving more than 60 aircraft. Twenty-seven types or models of old and new aircraft were featured. Other events scheduled were flag-raising ceremonies at Blamey Square and Commonwealth Place, a last post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial and a commemorative service at the Air Force Memorial, all recognising the contribution, achievement and sacrifice made by RAAF personnel over the past 100 years.

Last Friday, 20 Chinese aircraft—including four H-6K bombers and 10 J-16 fighter jets—entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, the largest single-day incursion since Taiwan’s defence ministry began disclosing Chinese military flights last September. Chinese aircraft have regularly flown through Taiwanese airspace, often seemingly in retaliation for geopolitical developments. This latest incursion occurred just hours after Washington and Taipei signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen coastguard cooperation—their first agreement under President Joe Biden.

Rapid fire

US President Joe Biden is under pressure from the Taliban to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan. Under the agreement ratified by President Donald Trump last year, the US committed to completely remove its troops by 1 May. Last week, the Taliban threatened retaliation against US and allied personnel if the deadline isn’t met after Biden said that meeting the schedule would be challenging and that he was unable to provide an exact timeline for the US withdrawal.

Supacat, a specialist in the design and engineering of high-mobility defence vehicles, has adopted Siemens’ software to enhance its ability to integrate with the Rheinmetall team in delivering Australia’s Land 400 program. Siemens’ Teamcentre and NX software will enable Supacat to effectively control the operation of engineering design and product data in a single-source environment, which the goal of improving the overall efficiency of manufacturing.

Final frontier

President Moon Jae-in has boosted South Korea’s space exploration ambitions with an announcement that the country will launch its first robotic lunar lander by 2030. Last month, Moon said his government will spend more than US$500 million on projects this year in an effort to increase South Korea’s involvement in space exploration. The country’s space agency, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, has completed minor space operations, which it hopes to build on through partnerships with private aerospace companies.

After months of speculation that it would be discontinued, the White House National Space Council has been given a new lease of life by the Biden administration. The council, which coordinates national security as well as private and public exploration in space, was revived by President Donald Trump in 2017 after more than two decades of inactivity. Its continuation has been welcomed by space industry players such as VOX Space, which views the council as an effective policy coordinator.

Wired watchtower

On Sunday, Australia’s largest media company, Nine Entertainment, was subject to a major cyberattack the first of this magnitude on a media organisation in Australia. In the aftermath of the attack, Nine sought assistance from the Australian Signals Directorate, the government agency tasked with protecting Australia from cyberattacks. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it’s suspected a state actor is the culprit.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Chinese government is restricting military staff and senior officials of state-owned enterprises from using Tesla vehicles, citing concerns that inbuilt cameras and ultrasonic sensors may collect sensitive data. It’s unclear whether this will include the brand’s Chinese-made cars or just those built in the US. Tesla owner Elon Musk denied that the cars will be used for spying and called for greater ‘mutual trust between the world’s two biggest economies’ when he spoke at the China Development Forum on 20 March.